The recent failure of the Hitomi satellite to find X-rays from black holes and galaxy clusters represents a devastating fiasco in the history of space science and has caused great disappointment to X-ray astronomers around the world, since the satellite was regarded as a flagship satellite for their research. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) needs to do its utmost to find out what went wrong with the project and learn lessons so that such failures are not repeated.

The Hitomi X-ray astronomy satellite was launched on Feb. 17 aboard Japan's mainstay H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. But it started spinning while in orbit around the Earth and communication with it was lost on March 26, bringing the operation of the satellite during its trial observation to a virtual halt on the 39th days of its mission. JAXA officially abandoned the project on April 28. The satellite had been scheduled to start full-scale observations this month.

The satellite was developed jointly by JAXA, NASA and other concerns. Some 250 researchers from Japan and abroad took part in the project, in which JAXA poured ¥31 billion, including the launch cost.